Verizon Fined $25M for Mystery Charges

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Verizon (Stock Quote: VZ) has agreed to pay a record $25 million fine to the U.S. Treasury Department for overcharging millions of consumers, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.

This settlement is the largest in the FCC’s history and follows a 10-month investigation of Verizon for mistakenly charging 15 million customers small amounts of money for data usage on their phone during the past three years.

According to the FCC, cell phone users were charged for accessing websites like Verizon’s homepage, which are free to view, and for unauthorized data transfers that were automatically launched by games and other mobile apps.

On top of the $25 million penalty, Verizon will immediately pay out a minimum of $52.8 million to refund these customers, and previous reports have suggested they may end up paying as much as $90 million.

As part of the settlement, Verizon must now allow consumers the choice to opt out of data usage in order to avoid potential data charges going forward.

Perhaps in an attempt to overshadow this news, Verizon decided to make its own announcement Friday and introduce a new tiered data plan pricing model. Smartphone users now have the option to stick with the unlimited data plan for $30 or opt in to a limited data plan for half the price.

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